Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Opposition builds to Kum & Go's Old Colorado City project in Colorado Springs

By Ned Hunter Updated: July 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm

A movement is gaining momentum in Old Colorado City to halt a proposed Kum & Go convenience store and gas station.

More than 650 people have signed a petition protesting Kum & Go's plans, and a Facebook page, No Kum&Go, had 251 "likes" as of Tuesday.

Kum & Go announced in June it had contracted with Goodwill to purchase the nonprofit's property on West Colorado Avenue, between North 23rd and 24th streets. The company said it plans to demolish Goodwill's buildings and construct a 5,000-square-foot convenience store and gas station, which would hold 10 dual-sided fuel pumps.

Goodwill is trying to sell the building because it plans to move to a larger facility on South Academy Boulevard.

Supporters of Kum & Go have said a convenience store on West Colorado would be better than having four or more abandoned buildings that could attract vagrants.

But opponents say the proposed Kum & Go would destroy Old Colorado City's historic and neighborhood atmosphere, cause some existing stores to lose business, and disrupt nearby residents with light, noise and other problems caused by a large 24-hour business.

"This is not just a gas station; it is a mega gas station," said John Sondericker, co-founder of one opposition group that is circulating the petition. "It seems to fly in the face of our historic district, and it in no way fits in any place of it."

Sondericker and others voiced their opinions to Kum & Go officials last month during a public meeting held by Goodwill. Kum & Go and the planning commission are holding a workshop with neighborhood organizations at 5:30 p.m. Monday at its administration room at 2320 W. Colorado Ave.

Megan Elfers, director of marketing and communications for Kum & Go, said in an e-mail that the company considers all opinions when looking for potential new sites.

"We value the opinions and ideas of our neighbors and customers, "and we want to hear the concerns and issues, so we can address them," she wrote.

Elfers said Kum & Go chose the West Colorado Avenue site because the company believes it will benefit the community. She said the company has constructed stores in the past that have matched surrounding architecture.

The decision to approve the Kum & Go rests first with city planning officials, then with City Council members, said Ryan Tefertiller, senior planner for the city's Land Use Review Division. The city's Planning Commission first must OK a zoning change for at least one section of the property before Kum & Go's project can be approved, Tefertiller said. The commission does not meet again until August, and its agenda is not available.

Residents could block Kum & Go's plans if they can convince planning officials that the project doesn't meet at least one of the city's 12 criteria for rezoning. Tefertiller said the two key criteria in this case are whether the project design will be harmonious with the surrounding land uses and neighborhood, and whether the proposed land uses will be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. He said if Goodwill were applying for a permit to open its distribution site at its current location today, instead of 40 years ago, the permit would be denied.

Sondericker, an electrical engineer and professional lighting designer, said the company did a poor job of addressing many of the neighborhood's concerns during last month's meeting, and tried to downplay the amount of light pollution the station would cause in the neighborhood.

"You just cannot light a gas station without a lot of light spill," he said. "If there was no light spill, you would not be able to see the store. It would look like a black hole."

Goodwill opened its West Colorado Avenue site more than 40 years ago, and has tried to sell the site for two years, said Bradd Hafer, spokesman for the nonprofit. Kum & Go was the "first credible property buyer" that came forward, Hafer said. Goodwill was asking $2.32 million for the property, and can still accept "financially viable back-up offers," should the deal collapse.

The organization wants to move to 2855 S. Academy Blvd., but it can't relocate until it sells its current location, Hafer said. Goodwill does not accumulate money for future locations, he said. The organization also tries to avoid financing buildings and other purchases when possible to keep debt low and have more money for services, Hafer said.

"We need to get out from under that property," he said.

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Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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